The Kept Woman(5)

By: Susan Donovan

"By any chance, is this woman a redhead?"

Sam eased her two o'clock client under the heat lamp with a cup of chamomile tea and a copy of People magazine, set the timer for twenty minutes, greeted her two-thirty client with a smile and sent her off with an apprentice for a shampoo, then ran to the kitchen at the back of the salon. At the most, she had ten minutes to eat something and call the evil Mrs. Brashears, administrator of Wee Ones Academy.

Sam hopped up on a countertop, grabbed the cordless phone, and took a bite out of her now-cold Taco Bell chicken-stuffed burrito.

"Mrs. Brashears?"

"Well, hello, Ms. Monroe. I was wondering when we were going to hear from you."

Sam wiped her mouth on a napkin, realizing that though a week had passed since she received the note, she still hadn't decided how to deal with this latest threat from the Montessori Mafia. Begging had worked in the past, but she had a feeling she'd used up all her sympathy points. And legal action was probably not an option because, as far as she knew, there was no such thing as discrimination against the potty challenged.

"Dakota is showing little or no progress," Mrs. Brashears said, her voice dripping with concern. "Have you found other arrangements for him?"

Sam swallowed a bite of burrito and felt her heart being swallowed along with it. "I've tried every approach out there," she said, hearing herself default to the sympathy tactic again. "I tried the star chart on the bathroom door, forced him to wear big-boy underwear, gave him a quarter for each successful potty, applauded every time—oh God! Look, Mrs. Brashears, my other two kids did the potty-training thing so naturally, I just don't understand this!"

"Ms. Monroe—"

"I even promised him we'd get another dog if he could only—"

"Bribery will never build a child's independence or encourage creative problem solving, and I certainly don't think adding another dog to the mix will help your family dynamics in any way, shape, or form."

"Right." Sam took a swig of Diet Pepsi and checked her watch. If she left her two o'clock under the heat lamp too long her foil would fry.

"And if I may say so, Ms. Monroe, it appears to me that you are having some difficulty being present for your children lately. You might want to consider a more flexible work schedule, perhaps going part-time until—"

"Until what? Until my ex-husband surfaces and pays all his back child support?" Sam jumped off the counter and stood in the middle of the salon's little kitchen, staring blankly out the small fogged-up window over the clothes dryer, calling to God or somebody to give her patience enough to survive this phone call—this day—without completely losing it.

"All I'm suggesting is—"

"And just an FYI, Mrs. Brashears: I've been up to my butt cheeks in independence and creative problem solving for the last three years! How dare you imply that I'm not taking care of my kids!"

Sam heard an offended gasp on the other end of the phone. Though it would mean the end of Dakota's private school experience forever, Sam couldn't help herself. It was time for a Montessori smack down.

"My determination to take good care of my kids is the only reason I've let your ridiculously uppity school hold me hostage for the last six months—it's kept me sane to know Dakota was safe and nurtured while I work. But Wee Ones has more rules and regulations than the IRS!"

"Ms. Monroe. Really—"

"I work incredibly hard to keep a roof over Dakota's head, along with the heads of his brother and sister, which makes a total of three heads, unless you count the dog, and that would make four heads! And if you add my own head, we're talking five! Five heads on one hairstylist's salary! Now how's that for family-fuckin'-dynamics?"

After a moment of stunned silence, Mrs. Brashears cleared her throat and said, "There are many other Wee Ones mothers in your position, Ms. Monroe, and I can assure you that their three-year-olds have successfully navigated sphincter management."

"Sphincter management?" Sam burst into laughter. "Oh jeez, I've heard it all now."

At that moment, the salon's apprentice poked her head into the kitchen and hissed, "Your two o'clock's gonna burst into flames."

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